TechSummit Rewind #032: July 14, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Bethanye Blount out at Reddit after less than two months

Bethanye Blount

Reddit chief engineer Bethanye Blount has left the company just days after interim CEO Ellen Pao did the same.

Blount was with the online community for two months after creating startup MailRank, which was acquired by Facebook in 2011. The move wasn’t fueled by Pao’s exit, according to Blount, but she lost confidence with the company’s new direction.

“I feel like there are going [to] be some big bumps on the road ahead for Reddit. Along the way, there are some very aggressive implied promises being made to the community – in comments to mods, quotes from board members – and they’re going to have some pretty big challenges in meeting those implied promises.

“[Former Ask Me Anything (AMA) coordinator] Victoria [Taylor] wasn’t on a glass cliff, but it’s hard for me to see it any other way than Ellen [Pao] was. I wouldn’t say my decision to leave was directly related to my gender.”

-Bethanye Blount, former Reddit chief engineer

Google launches Eddystone to compete with iBeacon

Eddystone logo

Google has launched Eddystone, an open-source, cross platform Bluetooth LE beacon format.

The initiative is named after the UK’s Eddystone Lighthouse because beacons guide users and apps in the same way as lighthouses guide ship captains.

“We have been working with many of the ecosystem partners to figure out the actual use cases, and we realized that existing solutions only partially address what is being asked for. We wanted to pull in businesses, developers, and the manufacturers and create an ecosystem that they can rally behind.”

-Chandu Thota, Eddystone engineering director

“There was a real desire from talking to them for a unified common ground that could be openly discussed, improved, and built on top of.”

-Matthew Kulick, Eddystone product manager

Reddit interim CEO hosting AMA on offensive posts policy


Reddit is trying to figure out how to deal with some of the site’s more horrible portions with an AMA set for this Thursday, July 16th at 1PM PT (4PM ET, 9PM GMT).

“There is also a dark side [of Reddit], communities whose purpose is reprehensible, and we don’t have any obligation to support them. And we also believe that some communities currently on the platform should not be here at all.”

-Steve Huffman, Reddit co-founder, interim CEO

Match Group spends $575M on PlentyOfFish


The Match Group, which is a subsidiary of Tinder and OKCupid owner IAC, has acquired PlentyOfFish (POF) for $575 million in cash. The group expects the transaction to close in the early fourth quarter, pending Canadian regulatory approval.

“As more people than ever use more dating apps than ever with more frequency than ever, PlentyOfFish’s addition both brings new members into our family of products and deepens the lifetime relationship we have with our users across our portfolio. I look forward to working closely with Markus and extending the company’s impressive growth trajectory.”

-Sam Yagan, Match Group CEO

“I am confident that Match will help accelerate our growth even further.”

-Markus Frind, PlentyOfFish CEO

Google reveals ‘right to be forgotten’ data


Less than five percent of the nearly 220,000 individual requests made by Google to selectively remove links to online information concerning criminals, politicians, and high-profile public figures, according to The Guardian, with over 95% of requests coming from everyday citizens.

Of the 218,320 requests to remove links between May 29th, 2014-March 23rd, 2015, 46% (101,461) have been successfully delisted on individual name searches. Of those, 99,569 involve “private or personal information,” according to The Guardian.

1,892 requests – less than one percent of the overall total – were successful for the four remaining issue types:

  • Serious crime: 728 requests
  • Public figure: 454 requests
  • Political: 534 requests
  • Child protection: 176 requests

In countries like France, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, and Cyprus, 98% of requests concern private information. Private information proportions fall below 90% in only three countries:

  • Italy: 85%
  • Romania: 87%
  • Hungary: 88%

The proportion is 95% in the UK and Spain. In Italy, the second largest issue is “serious crime” with 1,951 requests (12% of the country’s total).

“We’ve always aimed to be as transparent as possible about our right to be forgotten decisions. The data the Guardian found in our Transparency Report’s source code does of course come from Google, but it was part of a test to figure out how we could best categorize requests. We discontinued that test in March because the data was not reliable enough for publication. We are however currently working on ways to improve our transparency reporting.”

-Google, in a statement

“Google is taking decisions that are publicly relevant. As such, it is becoming almost like a court or government, but without the fundamental checks on its power.

“Because we know so little about the cases, Google can push the discussion about the right to be forgotten in a particular direction – overdramatize, or play it down.

“To me, this stresses all the more the importance of Google being more open about the requests it receives and the processing it undertakes. The company doesn’t have to put all the info of every request online – that wouldn’t work, and is clearly against data protection law itself, but it clearly needs to provide more granular information.”

-Stefan Kulk, Dutch researcher specializing in search engine providers’ liabilities

“If most of the requests are private and personal ones, then it’s a good law for the individuals concerned. It seems there is a need for this – and people go for it for genuine reasons.”

-Paul Bernal, UEA School of Law lecturer in technology and media law

Rescale lands $6.4M in funding


Rescale, the company behind a Platform as a Service for high-end computer simulations, has announced a $6.4 million investment from some of Silicon Valley’s biggest investors.

Sam Altman, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Paul Graham, Ron Conway, Chris Dixon, and Peter Thiel are just a few of those backing Rescale.

The San Francisco-based company works with industries like aerospace, automotive and life sciences, and others to give them the ability to generate computer simulations in the cloud.

Instead of buying its own hardware, Rescale works with infrastructure resellers to offer customers a range of computing resources. It also supports over 120 simulation software packages.

Rescale then puts together various hardware and software configurations that makes sense to those who would need those services, whether it’s an aerospace engineer designing a better rocket or an electric car designer looking for the optimal battery placement.

The company also offers an administrative console to provide administrators back-end control over costs. IT can assign budgets and resource limits to individuals and groups to keep costs in line.

Rescale gives its customers access to a set of resources in the cloud that’s only restricted by budget.

Mozilla blocks Adobe Flash in Firefox


Mozilla has blocked all versions of Adobe Flash up to the most recent version in its Firefox browser.

Flash will now require user authentication before being used.

The browser displays a warning message on its plugin management page that Flash is vulnerable. Shockwave Flash has been set to “ask to activate” rather than being blocked permanently.

Options to switch the state are now available because Flash is now on Firefox’s blocklist.

Wherever Flash content is embedded on a webpage, Mozilla now displays this warning:

“Firefox has prevented the unsafe plugin “Adobe Flash” from running on [website url].”

The prompt displays options to allow the plugin on the page. If selected, Flash contents will be loaded and look like it would normally.

You can request a manual update of the blocklist at any time using the following method:

  1. Open the Web Console by tapping on Alt and selecting Tools > Web Developer > Web Console (or use Ctrl+Shift+k).
  2. Click on Preferences.
  3. Go to Advanced Settings and check “Enable browser chrome and add-on debugging toolboxes”
  4. Open the Browser Console by tapping Alt and selecting Tools > Web Developer > Browser Console (or use Ctrl+Shift+j)
  5. Type Components.classes[“;1″].getService(Components.interfaces.nsITimer

The blocklist should update if updates are available. If you have Flash installed in Firefox, you should see the vulnerability warning in the browser’s plugin manager.

Workday launches venture fund to invest in data science startups


Workday will launch a venture fund focused on enterprise data science and machine learning.

“After we announced our Insight applications, we put ourselves on the map in the machine learning community. Organically, we started interactive with entrepreneurs and startups.

“The last 10 years has been about the cloud. The next 10 years will be about data science and machine learning.”

-Dan Beck, Workday senior vice president of technology products

Currently, the Pleasanton, CA-based company is focused on early series A type investments and will work with other venture firms.

Workday hopes to have 10 to 12 investments by the end of the year, according to company vice president of technology product strategy Adeyemi Ajao.

At launch, Workday has invested in four companies:

  • Jobr: A mobile-only job aggregator that lets users browse and apply for positions without a formal search
  • Metanautix: An analytics engine that combs structured and unstructured data using industry standard SQL
  • ThinAir: An intelligent security platform that aims to give employees control over sensitive data
  • Unbabel: A web translation service

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